Faith is the eyesight of the soul, by which we can see invisible spiritual realities (Heb. 11:1). By faith, believers can see the holiness of our invisible God. We can also see the invisible hell to which our unsaved relatives, neighbors, coworkers, and friends are heading. Since there is no fear of God before their eyes, we must fear on their behalf, having our hearts wrenched with anguish over the destiny of the lost (Rom. 9:2), moving us to plead with the lost with great urgency (2 Cor. 5:20).
“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18). With those words, Paul finished his devastating summary of the wrath of God against the universal depravity of humanity (1:18–3:18). God is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29), a phrase that summons the image of the sun. The sun is surrounded by a layer of plasma that reaches up to 5.4 million degrees Fahrenheit. Scripture reveals that God created the sun and sustains it every moment of its existence. Therefore, when Scripture says that God is a consuming fire, we must imagine that His wrath is hotter than the sun. God is more unapproachable than the sun (1 Tim. 6:16), for sinners cannot approach a holy God without being consumed by His wrath, unless God in His mercy extends the grace of the gospel in Christ.
As Christians, we live every day surrounded by people who have no fear of God. They are characterized by many other fears: death, blindness, public speaking, growing old, the IRS, dark alleys, spiders, and small, confined spaces. But God’s active wrath against sin does not cross their minds. Why not? Because God is invisible and seemingly silent about our wickedness (Isa. 57:11). The beginning of the grace of God in salvation is to move a sinner’s heart to fear the holiness and judgment of God. So, when God descended on Mount Sinai in fire and made the earth shake, even Moses said “I tremble with fear” (Heb. 12:21). In the same way, God must minister fear of eternal death before He can minister salvation.
How can Christians live faithfully in a culture that shows no fear of God?